What to ex­pect when weed’s legal

State’s top mar­i­juana reg­u­la­tor talks about com­plex­ity of fron­tier val­ued at $7 bil­lion.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - as­so­ci­ated press

Cal­i­for­nia’s legal pot mar­ket opens for busi­ness on Jan. 1. The day will be a mile­stone, but what ex­actly will hap­pen then and, es­pe­cially, in the weeks and months to come is un­clear.

Lori Ajax, the state’s top pot reg­u­la­tor, has been at the cen­ter of the effort to es­tab­lish rules for a legal pot econ­omy val­ued at $7 bil­lion.

Here are her thoughts on what to ex­pect:

It’s a ques­tion many peo­ple are ask­ing: Can I buy legal pot on Jan. 1? Well, maybe. “You will, in cer­tain ar­eas of the state,” Ajax says.

Busi­nesses are re­quired to have a lo­cal per­mit and a state li­cense to open their doors for recre­ational sales, and that process has moved slowly.

So far, there is not a con­sis­tent pat­tern in the ge­og­ra­phy of legal pot.

Kern County, for ex­am­ple, has banned com­mer­cial cannabis ac­tiv­ity. Oak­land, Santa Cruz, Shasta Lake and San Diego are among the cities that have em­braced it and have li­censed op­er­a­tors that will open Jan. 1.

San Francisco is run­ning late get­ting li­censes out, so legal sales there are not ex­pected to start un­til later that week. In Los An­ge­les, the city will be­gin ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions to sell recre­ational pot on Jan. 3, but it could be weeks be­fore any shops open for legal sales.

If you get legal pot Jan. 1, where can you smoke it?

First rule: Not in public, Ajax says.

And as a gen­eral guide­line: Don’t smoke any­where where to­bacco is pro­hib­ited.

State law has spe­cific guide­lines for where not to light up, and they in­clude be­ing within 1,000 feet of a school or a day­care cen­ter when kids are around, or smok­ing while driv­ing.

How­ever, the state has left it up to lo­cal gov­ern­ments to de­ter­mine whether they want to per­mit on-site con­sump­tion at re­tail­ers. So it will vary by city whether you can buy and light up on the spot.

This is go­ing to be a big tran­si­tion, trans­form­ing the lightly reg­u­lated med­i­cal in­dus­try and the vast il­le­gal mar­ket into a legal pot econ­omy. How will it roll out? With ups and downs. “That tran­si­tion pe­riod is go­ing to be an ad­just­ment for a lot of folks,” Ajax says.

The in­dus­try — med­i­cal and il­le­gal — has ex­isted for years with lit­tle or no reg­u­la­tion. Now, grow­ers and sell­ers are fac­ing a range of new state and lo­cal rules, in­clud­ing hefty new taxes.

Con­sumers who want to make a pur­chase will have to check their lo­cal rules, which can vary.

The state ex­pects to be vis­it­ing busi­nesses, per­haps re­peat­edly, to help them meet the reg­u­la­tions.

“We have to re­ally work with them,” Ajax says.

Her big­gest worry?

The pace and ex­tent of li­cens­ing, be­cause lots of play­ers are needed to make the sup­ply chain work across the state. Cul­ti­va­tors. Dis­trib­u­tors. Man­u­fac­tur­ers. Test­ing com­pa­nies. Re­tail­ers.

State li­cens­ing started only in De­cem­ber. Ajax wor­ries about whether Cal­i­for­nia has “li­censed enough peo­ple through­out the sup­ply chain, and geo­graph­i­cally across the state, so peo­ple can con­tinue to do busi­ness,” which in­cludes med­i­cal and recre­ational pot. “That’s some­thing I think about all the time.”

Take dis­trib­u­tors that trans­port cannabis.

“If you don’t have enough dis­trib­u­tors, if they are the only ones that can trans­port the cannabis, that would be an is­sue on Day One,” Ajax says.

How tough is en­force­ment go­ing to be, if you in­tend to en­tice busi­nesses into the mar­ket?

For now, more car­rot than stick.

“We can’t just hit them over the head,” Ajax says. “You work to­ward ed­u­cat­ing them and, I think, you go from there.

“If we have some­body that is caus­ing a public nui­sance or a public safety prob­lem, then I do think strong en­force­ment is nec­es­sary. But if you just got some­body try­ing to com­ply, and they are com­pletely over­whelmed be­cause they just don’t know what to do, then I think that’s our job to then break it down for peo­ple.”

She ac­knowl­edges that the dense reg­u­la­tions can be in­tim­i­dat­ing.

“A lot of them have never dealt with the state be­fore,” she says. “We want to en­cour­age peo­ple that this is the best way for Cal­i­for­nia, to come out of the shad­ows and be li­censed.”

Ex­perts say the new legal econ­omy will strug­gle if the black mar­ket con­tin­ues to thrive. How does the state in­tend to per­suade il­le­gal op­er­a­tors to come out of the shad­ows? In a word, ed­u­ca­tion. Ajax says busi­nesses need to know how to get li­censed — an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion site opened this month — and the state should en­cour­age them to do so.

The state also needs to be flex­i­ble at first with com­pli­ance, she says, as busi­nesses be­come ac­cus­tomed to the new system.

“We, as a state, have to show them that this is where you need to be,” she says.

‘We can’t just hit them over the head. You work to­ward ed­u­cat­ing them and, I think, you go from there.’ — Lori Ajax, Cal­i­for­nia’s top pot reg­u­la­tor, speak­ing on rule en­force­ment

Rich Pe­dron­celli As­so­ci­ated Press

LORI AJAX, Cal­i­for­nia’s top pot reg­u­la­tor, says the “tran­si­tion pe­riod is go­ing to be an ad­just­ment for a lot of folks” in the in­dus­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.